Last week we highlighted 11 teams that have exceptionally difficult non-league slates in 2017, this week we look at the opposite scenario.
The five schools listed are the only Power programs that won’t face a Power team outside of conference play this season. Three hail from the Pac-12, one is from the Big Ten and the final representative is from the Big 12. No ACC or SEC members are on the naughty list.
Each team will have, at minimum, a one game advantage over the 59 Power programs who have scheduled at least one Power foe out of league play.
It’s a big deal.
Also worth noting is that four of the five programs mentioned have struggled in recent years – that despite Colorado and Washington State’s recent improvements. Is allowing a weaker non-league schedule an attempt by conference leadership to boost the chances their weakest teams can reach bowl eligibility?
2017 Non-Conference Opponents: Northern Arizona (FCS), Houston, at UTEP
Arizona did schedule BYU last year, but the last time it played a member of a power conference during the regular season was in 2012 when it hosted (18) Oklahoma State for a Week 2 win.
Since 2006, the Wildcats are 6-0 vs. FCS opponents and 15-3 (83%) vs. non-Power conference members. Compare that to their 5-4 (55.5%) mark against non-Pac 12 Power Five opponents.
It amounts to Arizona having a 27.5% better chance of scoring a win over a non-power foe than a Power Five program.
To drive the point home – compare Arizona’s non-conference schedule with that of fellow Pac-12 South member USC: Western Michigan, Texas, and at Notre Dame.
2017 Non-Conference Opponents: Colorado State (at Denver, Colo.), Texas State, Northern Colorado (FCS)
The second of the three Pac-12 teams on our list, Colorado played a non-Pac-12 power opponent as recently as last year – a road trip to (3) Michigan. Prior to that, the Buffs enjoyed four consecutive seasons without a power foe on its non-conference slate, dating back to a 2011 visit to Ohio State.
Colorado is 4-1 (80%) vs. FCS opponents in the last decade and 12-27 (31%) vs. Power opponents outside of Pac-12 play. Compared to its 10-7 (59%) mark against non-power foes over the same time period, the Buffs are 28% more likely to win against a non-power opponent than one from a Power Five league.
What makes Colorado’s case unique is its annual meeting with Colorado State, providing more applicable data. Though the Buffaloes haven’t dominated the Rams in recent years, they’ve won three of the last five and six of the last ten.
2017 Non-Conference Opponents: Ball State, Western Kentucky, at USF
Illinois can’t be accused of a long history of weak scheduling. In fact, that last time it didn’t schedule a power opponent outside of Big Ten play was in 1999. That was 18 years ago. It also gets extra credit for being the only team highlighted that won’t play an FCS team in 2017.
That said, they did make the list, and it does represent an advantage. The Illini are 12-6 (67%) against non-power opponents since 2007 vs. 4-9 (31%) against non-Big Ten power foes. It’s a 36% advantage.
Compare Illinois’ non-conference slate with that of fellow Big Ten West cellar dweller Purdue: Louisville, Ohio, and at Missouri. That’s a MAC, C-USA, and American combo vs. an ACC, MAC, and SEC package.
2017 Non-Conference Opponents: Southeast Missouri (FCS), Central Michigan, at Ohio
Kansas hasn’t played a power foe outside of Big 12 play since a 2015 trip to Rutgers. The Jayhawks’ scheduling tendency is spotty, making dates with Power Five teams in 2014, 2011 and 2010 and skipping out in 2013 and 2012.
They haven’t won such a game since upsetting (15) Georgia Tech early in the 2010 season.
Not surprisingly, Kansas’ advantage isn’t as substantial as it hasn’t posted more than three wins since going 5-7 in 2009. Over the last decade, it’s 7-2 (78%) vs. FCS teams and 11-6 (65%) vs. non-power foes. It’s 22% better than the 10-13 record (43%) it’s posted vs. non-Big 12 power foes over the same time period.
While Kansas is playing an FCS school and double-dipping the MAC, Texas gets Maryland, San Jose State, and USC on the road.
2017 Non-Conference Opponents: Montana State (FCS), Boise State, Nevada
Though Washington State didn’t play a power team out of Pac-12 play last season, it did schedule one such opponent each year from 2013-15.
The Cougars are 6-1 (86%) vs. the FCS since 2007 and 7-6 (54%) vs. non-power opponents. Compare that to their 2-6 (25%) mark vs. non-Pac 12 power teams. It’s a 29% advantage.
Boise State is clearly not just another non-power team, somewhat skewing Washington State’s scenario. That said, the Cougars are 4-1 all-time vs. the Broncos. But, as numbers sometime do, that’s only part of the story – the wins were all between 1997-2001 (before Boise State’s run of national dominance) and the loss? That was in 2016.
For a final bit of perspective, take a look at fellow Pac-12 North member Cal’s non-conference schedule: at North Carolina, Weber State (FCS), and Ole Miss.
Wisconsin, Utah and Mississippi State are not included on the list as each has a date planned with independent BYU. The Cougars’ status as a Power opponent varies within each conference, but for comparison sake we’ve counted them as such.